Occupation & training
The Saint Bernards from the Barry Foundation not only enjoy their twice daily walks, but also benefit from a varied, well-balanced activity schedule. The hospice dogs are trained and occupied in the following areas:
The Saint Bernard is a typical pulling dog. It is ideally suited to pulling loads on account of its size and strength. The dogs from the Barry Foundation pull carts in the summer and sledges in the winter. They are usually harnessed on their own or in teams of two.
The dogs also practise passing obstacles whilst pulling the dog carts. We set up special agility courses for them to negotiate. Every year we also enter several teams of dogs to compete in the international cart dog championships in Bigenthal.
Saint Bernards can also carry loads. Whilst out on hikes with us, one of our dogs always carries a special dog rucksack containing a first aid kit and sometimes a few provisions for the walk as well.
The hospice dogs are athletic dogs that like moving around in the open air. We regularly organise 1 ½ hour hikes accompanied by Saint Bernard dogs on the Great Saint Bernard pass, in the Martigny / Fully area and in Champex-Lac.
We started visiting old people’s homes with our first therapy dog in 2007. As the Saint Bernards proved to be extremely well suited to this task, we have steadily extended our work in this field ever since. We differentiate between half-hour visits organised on a regular basis and one-off visits arranged individually.
We now pay regular visits to over seven retirement homes and residences for the disabled.
We are involved in another special area of work organising and participating in camps for children and young people in the Great Saint Bernard pass region. The idea is simple - the Saint Bernards help children with behavioural difficulties to improve their communication skills. Camps are also held for those suffering physical or mental handicaps, in which case the main aim of the Saint Bernards is to increase the participants’ well-being. This is achieved through intensive contact and work with our dogs. Our initial experience has shown that young people react very positively to the Saint Bernards.
The Barry Foundation is taking part of the Valais canton’s campaign for the prevention of dog biting by visiting schools and nurseries to teach children how to behave towards dogs.
Saint Bernards love and need contact with people. As well as the everyday contact they have with the dog keeper team, the dogs enjoy spending time with visitors. The dogs take great pleasure from being petted and the visitors in turn love petting them.
We regularly participate in dog shows with some of our Saint Bernards. As well as enabling us to meet and share our experience with other dog breeders, dog exhibitions are an important event for our Saint Bernards. Shows are an opportunity for the dogs to come into contact with other representatives of the Swiss national dog as well as with other breeds. Taking part in shows is part of the socialisation programme for young dogs.
Easy (4.5 years old), a female Saint Bernard dog, has undergone basic training as an avalanche dog. This type of training is a useful occupation for an athletic Saint Bernard dog and helps us to keep up a very old tradition
Regular training with mobility obstacles, a kind of agility course for larger dogs, improves the Saint Bernards’ mobility and is a great deal of fun at the same time. When practising mobility, the aim is to pass various obstacles correctly – no matter how long it takes. We have set up a special mobility course for the dogs at the Martigny breeding centre.
TTouch techniques are very easy to use. They increase the animals’ body awareness and aid communication between the dogs and their carers. The Feldenkrais based method consists of body work (involving gentle touching and stroking of the dogs) and a teaching course with obstacles. We often use the Tellington TTouch method to calm down lively Saint Bernards or to increase the attention of dogs before a training course.
Searching for a target is very hard work for dogs because it requires total concentration. When taking part in a target search, the Saint Bernards have to use their sense of smell to detect an object that has been hidden beforehand. If the dog manages to find the object, it designates the item by lying down next to it.
The Saint Bernards need to pay close attention and utilise their full mental capacities when learning to perform little tricks. Training the dogs to perform tricks is great fun for both dogs and dog keepers alike.
Intelligent dog toys
We often work with intelligent dog toys to encourage our dogs to use their mental abilities. The principle is always the same. A small item of food is hidden inside the toy. The Saint Bernard can only reach it by moving certain parts of the toy (either by pushing, pressing, turning or pulling). There are all kinds of different toys, ranging from simple to complex play facilities.